The Minneapolis Star Tribune published a very foolish editorial in their Faith and Values section, carping about that Dawkins fella and his atheistic Darwinism. It’s typical creationist dreck, I’m afraid. If you want just one good argument against religion, it’s that it seems to promote idiots to positions of leadership.
Richard Dawkins, author of the book “The God Delusion,” intends that religious readers of his book will be atheists when they finish it. Let’s put some of the statements he made in his Nov. 4 Star Tribune interview to the test.
Dawkins claims that evolutionary science “offers a brilliant and beautiful explanation of origins and existence.” But evolutionists assert that this universe and everything in it has come about by chance. There is no plan, no divine planner/creator — just random combinations of atoms. What’s brilliant about a random, unplanned process?
Oh, come on now. Evolution is not simply a random process. There are strong elements of chance throughout, and random events are certainly a dominant contributor to the patterns we see—every child, for instance, is partly the product of a chance combination of alleles and biasing developmental events—but natural selection is not random at all.
What is utterly brilliant about Darwin’s insight was that he saw how the combination of random variation and a selective filter could lead to the diversity and complexity of the world around us. I’m not surprised that Pastor Hellmann is baffled by the value biologists place on Darwin’s idea, because he clearly does not understand it.
Can such a random process actually work? Sir Fred Hoyle, noted English astronomer, studied the problem and concluded this: The probability of one cell coming into being by chance was the same as the probability that a tornado striking a junkyard would produce a fully functioning 747 jet airplane. In other words, the chance of it happening is virtually zero.
Fred Hoyle did not study the problem at all—as noted, he was an astronomer, neither a biologist nor a chemist, and he was speaking far, far outside his domain of expertise. It is correct that the probability of a cell coming into being by chance is prohibitively low, but what did I just say? Evolution is not simply a chance process. The Hoyle analogy does not apply, even if it is a staple of simple-minded creationist thinking.
What is beautiful about evolution? It requires a struggle in which the fit survive and the weak are trampled in the dust. Progress is made by almost endless generations of creatures living, struggling and dying. Where is there beauty in an every-organism-for-itself struggle? Even though the fit may survive a little longer, they are trapped in an existence without purpose or meaning. Such a dreary and hopeless spectacle can only be described as ugly.
This objection is hilarious.
Look at the world around you. There is death, competition, struggle for limited resources, predators killing prey, disease, brutality, and waste. This is the way the world is, and Darwin (or any competent observer) can see that. This situation did not suddenly emerge in 1859 when Darwin published his book. What’s beautiful about evolution is that it explains how complexity and diversity and even beauty can arise naturally out of such callous and uncaring processes.
Does it somehow make the death of a gazelle by slow strangulation while it’s being mauled and eaten alive more beautiful to imagine that this is done under the watchful, loving eye of an omnipotent supernatural being?
A world without religion
Dawkins asks us to imagine what a world without religion would look like. We don’t have to imagine it. We have seen it and the results were horrific.
Communism, based on atheism and evolution, was tried in the Soviet Union. Stalin, the Communist dictator, ordered the murders of about 30 million of his citizens during his ruthless rule. Those who escaped liquidation lived in a “workers’ paradise” of poverty and oppression.
About 100 years ago, evolution spawned two abhorrent social movements. Social Darwinism was used by some titans of industry to justify their predatory, ruthless business practices. Eugenics was a racist movement that some used to try to keep people they considered undesirable (the infirm, disabled, racial minorities) from reproducing. Hitler, an atheist and evolutionist, used that idea to justify purging his favored Aryan race of the disabled or weak, as well as killing millions of Jews and others he deemed undesirable.
Communism is not based on evolution. In fact, its principles are anti-evolutionary, proposing a pattern of progress by force of the people’s will; if you want a political philosophy that’s much more compatible with the ideas of evolution, I’m afraid it’s capitalism.
Hitler was a Catholic, not an atheist. One might argue that he wasn’t a very good Catholic, but he sure paid a lot of lip service to religion.
Eugenics did find its rationalizations in biology, but it was bad biology and was based on principles rooted more strongly in the selective breeding used in agriculture for millennia.
Similarly, Stalin used atheism to purge the power of the orthodox church in Russia, but I’m afraid he was a very poor sort of evolutionist. He promoted Lysenkoism.
Atheism and evolution are based on the philosophy (religion) of materialism. Materialism asserts that matter is all that exists and that there is no God. Since materialists begin by denying the existence of God, it’s no surprise that they don’t find God revealed anywhere.
I challenge Richard Dawkins to study the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the book of Acts. Jesus invites all to come out of the hopelessness of the religion of atheism and live in his light and the salvation that he offers to all.
Robert Hellmann is pastor at St. Paul’s and Trinity Lutheran Churches in Montrose, MN.
Atheism is built on that philosophy, I’ll agree; evolution is not. Atheism is a natural consequence of understanding the power of purely material processes, though, so I have to agree that atheism is often a product of education and scientific training—but it isn’t as if you can’t believe in a deistic god and also practice good science.
And I’m sorry, but seeing a pastor, one who doesn’t understand science and has read nothing in the literature of biology, tell me that I need to read the Bible is unconvincing. I’ve read the gospels. I was brought up a Lutheran, just like Pastor Hellmann. I rejected the masturbatory cycle of reading the dogma of theologians because I opened my eyes and looked at the real world, and the rocks and trees and the milling multitudes of nature all cry out that the books of the religious are impoverished shadows of reality. Why sip from the recycled piss of Christianity when I can drink deep from the Pierian Spring?